“Sacred Earth, Original Blessing, Common Home”
For four inspirational July days, about three hundred people gathered at Newington College, on the land of the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, for the 5th Common Dreams Conference. As one of those people, this was a precious and faith-nourishing time for me, with dynamic spiritual leadership and input, stimulating conversation, and wonderful artistic and musical blessing.
The Common Dreams movement is described on its website as:
“… an alliance of Australian and New Zealand kindred organisations which promote the study, discussion and implementation of progressive Christian and other progressive religious streams of thought and action.” (commondreams.org.au)
As you might expect from such a statement the conference provided quite a diversity of thought, experience and expression, from participants and leaders alike. Space limits the sharing of more than a few highlights here, but there were many for me.
Perhaps foremost was the opportunity to engage with Matthew Fox, whose wonderful book “Original Blessing”(1983) was life changing for me as I began my ministry 25 years ago. Fox’s teaching was regarded as heretical by the Roman Catholic Church, and he no longer teaches within that system, having now spent many years as an Episcopal priest. His teaching at CD5 reflected the same fire and conviction about need for people of faith to take seriously the sacredness of the earth we share, and the peril in which humanity has placed it.
“The universe is the first sacrament of the divine”, he states, and goes on to say that Western society in particular (including religion), has seen fit to make ourselves the centre of everything, ignoring the divine all around us in the process. “There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on earth. How can that NOT cause us to wonder?”
Twenty five years on from reading “Original Blessing”, Fox has changed my life again, with these words: “We’re the first species in the history of the earth that has the ability to choose not to go extinct. We haven’t made that choice yet. … If we say we love our children and grand-children, it’s only true, if we do something about the world they are inheriting”. As an expectant grandfather those words hit me between the eyes, and I have begun to take up action, as a faith calling.
Other leaders included Rev Dr Anne Pattel-Grey, Rabbi Jonathan Keren-Black, Fr Rod Bower, Ms Ro Allen, Rev Margaret Mayman, Rev Robin Meiers (another of my theological heroes!), and a wide variety of wonderful artists, musicians and performers.
This was a truly wonderful faith experience, and I cherish it as a time of deep blessing.